Change is in your pocket

The Big Issue is a socially responsible non-profit organisation that enables willing unemployed and marginalised adults to take responsibility for their own lives through a developmental employment programme.

Social Development

About the developmental programme
The most important needs of marginalised adults are employment and dignity. Accordingly, the cornerstone of The Big Issue’s strategy is to provide vendors with immediate earning opportunities, but throughout their time as Big Issue vendors they will also be assisted in moving from social marginalisation to achieving the dignity of independence. Earning an immediate and legitimate income through selling the magazine is seen as a first step towards developing a self-sustainable future.

Core services offered to vendors include
Workshops: Addressing issues such as motivation and life skills, sales and customer relations, basic business skills, entrepreneurship and money-management.

Further Education & Training: Providing assistance and course placement to vendors who wish to undergo further education and training in order to realise long-term career goals (generally outsourced to external providers).

Crèche Programme: A crèche programme for vendors with children, promoting involvement of women in the project. This means that more women can become Big Issue vendors while ensuring their children are being cared for in a safe environment.

Accommodation Assistance: Assisting vendors to move off the street and into night shelters or independent accommodation.

Casework and Counselling: Providing professional social work services and counselling to vendors on a range of matters such as family support issues, accessing social grants, HIV/Aids & substance abuse counselling, child care, health care or interpersonal problems. Matters that cannot be dealt with in-house are referred to more specialist organisations.

Job Club: Assisting vendors in seeking long-term employment, for example helping them draw up CVs and job hunt.

Gender Advocacy: The Big Issue South Africa has the highest proportion of female vendors of any of the INSP-member papers. The focus is on ensuring that women have equal access to services and resources. Gender advocacy provides for continued child support in the form of crèche subsidisation; equal opportunities within our developmental programme and within the context of women as a special needs group; sensitivity training for staff regarding women’s fears, issues and needs; peer support groups; access to education around women’s health issues; specialised work skills and entrepreneurial skills development.

Art & Writing: Vendors are encouraged to express themselves on paper and canvas. The best results are published in the magazine and vendors are paid for their material.

Social Activities: Organising events and outings for vendors to promote the social inclusion of the poor. Vendors visit major attractions like Robben Island and Table Mountain, participate in public events like The Cape Times/FNB Big Walk, and throw a year-end Christmas Party.

The success rate of a vendor is measured initially through income earned, but ultimately through readiness to “move on” into the formal job market. Both case and group work methods are utilised and, though vendors are encouraged to move through the system at their own pace, The Big Issue has set a target of moving at least 20-25% of vendors in any stage of the programme, to the next stage, during each annual cycle.